Without data we simply don’t know
Adolescence is a critical stage in life shaping human beings before they move into adulthood. Despite a growing awareness of mental health among young people, quality data on mental disorders are only available for less than 10% of the world’s adolescents. Two new international publications explain how data is crucial to find the proper means to address the serious mental health situation among young people today.
Fragmented and incomplete data
Data on mental health among young people at the population level remains fragmented and incomplete in many countries and funding to scientific studies within the field of mental health is scarce.
– We are lacking scientific evidence on mental health conditions among young people at the global level. We have, for instance, talked a lot about the fact that young people have been very negatively affected by the mental pressures of confinement and physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not, however, possible for society to invest in appropriate measures to meet the need for treatment and help for adolescents who experience mental health issues if we do not have proper data, explains Jill Åhs, a doctoral student at the Swedish Red Cross University College who has contributed to these efforts.
Prioritize, improve, and better align adolescent mental health measurement
To address the lack of data and resources targeted towards the area of mental health of adolescents, UNICEF and partners are leading the Measurement of Mental Health Among Adolescents at the Population Level (MMAP) initiative. This initiative is working to address the need to prioritize, improve, and better align adolescent mental health measurement.
– The initiative’s focus is to support population-level data generation on adolescents’ mental health, so that data can guide investments in adolescents, and improve their lives today, and tomorrow as they mature into adults, and in the longer run can carry into positive effects on the next generation, explains Jill Åhs.
– Without data and proper knowledge of the current situation, we cannot find the appropriate care to address mental health issues among young people. If we want to reduce the global burden of mental health conditions, we must first know what the situation is like through proper data, she says.
The two following studies with a focus on measuring mental health among adolescents were produced within this initiative:
- You Can’t Manage What You Do Not Measure - Why Adolescent Mental Health Monitoring Matters
- Increasing Data and Understanding of Adolescent Mental Health Worldwide: UNICEF’s Measurement of Mental Health Among Adolescents at the Population Level (MMAP) Initiative
- Read more about the initiative: https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/mental-health/mmap/
Jill Åhs, doctoral student, Swedish Red Cross University College, tel. +46 (0)8 587 516 54, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org